We need to stand with our farmers today

The Americans and Europeans—both the public and the governments—have never ceased to support their farmers. We should also come forward in support of them.

With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the majority of companies laid off their workforce, while others made cuts in their salaries. The question is: Did it help them tide over the problems created by the pandemic? The answer is no. 

This question was raised by renowned industrialist Ratan Tata. He opined that companies should be compassionate towards their workers. It is neither a remedy nor an act of humanity to discard their workers in distress who have toiled hard for the success of their companies. Instead, the management of companies should work towards possibilities of resolution of distress. 

Companies are formed not by their assets, but by their workforce. This is the reason that Tata, without any support from the government, has maintained a name which has immense goodwill and faith, even in these times. The government should also work towards possibilities and policies dedicated to better public welfare. The Governments of Canada and China have worked on these issues, and as a result, these countries have fared well and proven themselves better than others in these times. 

However, there are only a selected few like Tata, and our country is in dire straits. The corporate sector is working only for its self-interest and is not bothered about the lives of others. It works on a system, and not on compassion, and those who run this system work only for their selfinterests and walk away with heavy perks and packages. In a democracy, the citizens form their own government and the responsibility of such a government is to work, keeping the interest of its citizens over any other interest. But, nowadays, corporates are powerful because everything runs on their funds.

 Today, the country is facing unrest over the passing of the three bills which will regulate agriculture and farmers. The unrest is expected and accepted as it is for a public cause. For the last few days, farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and western Uttar Pradesh have been agitating, while there is not much of an agitation to be seen in the other states. The reason is obvious: in these States, there are sufficient markets as well as avenues for the farmers. Bihar and other states do not have such arrangements for their farmers, on account of which their farmers are neither capable nor have reasonable earnings. The government claims that they have opened up and provided better avenues for the farmers by promulgating these laws. Farmers can now stock their produce and sell it at a good price anywhere, which will reduce the profits made by middlemen/agents. At the first glance, the stand of the government appeared to be reasonable, but on pondering over the matter deeply, I was forced to question myself about why farmers are the only one protesting over it — instead of all of us? 

I am also from an agrarian family and we do not go to the markets to sell our produce. We sell the produce to the agent/ middleman as a standing crop in the fields, for a price lesser than the MSP, which in return provides us with the better service of the agent/middleman, who procures the produce from our farms and takes the responsibility of saving the produce from the rains and stocking it. The agent/middleman also tenders payments in advance when it’s required.

 In our home, a young man comes to deliver milk from a village, and on asking him, he told us that he had sold the wheat produce at the time of harvesting at a rate of Rs 18- 19 per kg and, at present, the rate of wheat is prevailing at Rs 22-23 per kg, and that he easily manages his household through animal husbandry. At his time of need, the agent/ middleman helps him, and in return, he sells him his wheat. I recollect how, back in 2012, Arun Jaitley, the Leader of BJP in the Rajya Sabha, had stated that corporates can never work for the welfare of farmers. He had cited the examples of farmers in Europe and the Americas while addressing the Parliament, to make its Members understand how corporates there get cultivation done but farmers are in dire straits, and that the governments take care of the farmers by way of subsidies and grants. Sushma Swaraj had also said that the market and the agents are the bankers for a farmer and the reason for ‘celebrations in his house’. 

It is sad that the interests of corporates are being lobbied by their party now after assuming power. Farmers are being mesmerised with sweet dreams, while the Parliament has stamped its approval for turning them into labourers for the corporate. And this has been done by those representatives whom they had elected with the hope of seeing better times. This is the reason why farmers of half a dozen states are protesting on the roads today and the intellectuals of the country along with the chief opposition party, Congress, are battling for the rights of the farmers. The question rises again: why is this battle being waged by the farmer alone, and not by all of us? We all are busy watching the monkey business of Deepika, Sushant and Rhea on the news channels, which is not helping the nation in any manner. 

If you remember, when the produce of potatoes and onions had hit the markets, farmers had not been able to get even Rs 2 per kg for that produce. The farmers who had taken their produce to the Nasik market, after paying heavy fares, had become victims of devastation on reaching the market and had to throw their produce of potatoes and onions on the road before leaving emptyhanded. Today, we are buying potatoes and onions at Rs 40 per kg. Tomatoes also suffered from the same fate and now are selling for a price higher than Rs 100 per kg. So, who is actually earning from the produce of the farmers? Is it the trader? The answer is, yes, because he is in a position to stock the produce and to tender advance payments to the farmers. Farmers in Punjab and Haryana are prosperous and their average yearly income is around Rs 2.40 lakh, whereas that of the farmers in Bihar is Rs 44,000 only. It is even lesser in Odisha and West Bengal. The reason for this is that the farmers in Punjab and Haryana earn well with the help of the markets and the middlemen/agents, whereas in Bihar and other states, there are no such arrangements and the government does not affect the whole purchase on the MSP. 

With the promulgation of this law, the agricultural produce shall be captured by the corporates. They would purchase and stock the produce as per their whims and fancies and would further sell it at their dictated prices. They would also capture the farm fields with the concept of corporate farming and the farmer would be compelled to be their labourer. This way, corporates would rake in money after looting from the farmers’ produce. This is not an apprehension but rather a bitter truth because corporates work only for their own profits and interests. We have witnessed how they did not even blink an eyelid before laying off those employees who had founded and established their companies through their dedicated hard work.

 We have to understand that the farmer neither has the resources nor the capacity to take his produce to other states by hiring freight transport. He is also incapable of holding to his produce or stock it as he seeks the help of the middleman/ agent to sow his fields by getting the cost of the sowing and, thereafter, asks him to procure his produce. The trader does benefit, because he has the capacity and resources to procure, stock and transport the produce, but it is also true that the trader/middleman/agent has a friendly bond with the farmer. When the corporates’ system would be applied in the farms, then only the profitability of the produce would be harvested. The hopes of the farmers would be dashed down, as they would pay the farmer only according to what profits them.

 Corporates would also sell the agricultural products at a high rate to us, after stocking the same, because there is no legal regulation over the pricing of the products anymore. If we are to feed ourselves, we would be forced to buy the products from the corporates at a higher price with folded hands and stare at a food crisis in the future. This is the reason why we should not leave the farmer standing alone today. The Americans and Europeans — both the public and the governments — have never ceased to support their farmers. We should also come forward in support of them. This is not a political fight but a battle for public interest.